Flexible/Transparent Displays - Companies
In this report, we reviewed seven companies in the flexible display market with revenue less than $10 billion: Royole, FlexEnable, BOE Technology Group, Flexterra, E Ink, Plastic Logic, Joled Inc. and SmartKem. We provided a summary of each company and their flexible display technology/products. Three to five statements about their flexible display products were also included directly from their websites.
Royole is founded by Stanford engineering graduates in 2012 and started its operation in Fremont, California; Shenzhen, China; and Hong Kong. It produces advanced flexible displays, flexible sensors, and smart devices.
In 2014, Royole introduced the world’s thinnest full-color AMOLED flexible display with the following claims on its website:
• “The overall display thickness was only about 0.01 mm (10 µm), as thin as an onion skin.”
• “Due to its ultra-thin thickness, bending radius of the flexible display can be as small as 1 mm, which is even thinner than a pen refill.”
• “The display still has the capability to display high-quality videos with brilliant and vivid colors in the bending status or after 50K ~ 100K of bending cycles.”
FlexEnable is a company registered in the U.K. and claimed to be the world leaders in flexible electronics. Its products primarily consist of flexible displays and flexible sensors.
FlexEnable’s flexible OLED displays are ultra-lightweight and thin enough to be rolled around a pencil, according to its website. We also found the following statements about this product line:
• “FlexEnable’s organic electronics technology is specifically suited for flexible OLED displays.”
• “Our unique technology allows electronics to be manufactured on flexible plastic film, the thickness of a sheet of paper. It combines stable, high-performance organic thin-film transistors (OTFT) with passive elements to create truly flexible and cost-effective electronics over large and small surfaces. This has led to the successful volume production of thin, lightweight and robust backplanes for flexible displays and sensors.”
Key benefits of FlexEnable’s OTFT mentioned on the website include:
• "Bending radius down to 0.25 mm."
• "Substrate thickness down to 25 µm."
• "As light as a sheet of paper."
• "Better electrical performance than conventional a-Si glass-based TFT technology."
• "High manufacturing yield compared to polyimide-based processes."
• "Lowest total cost of ownership for flexible displays and sensor arrays."
BOE TECHNOLOGY GROUP
BOE Technology Group claims to be the "frontrunner and leader of mainland China’s semiconductor display industry." This company was founded in 1993 and has three core businesses: display and sensor devices, smart systems, and healthcare services. Aside from Asia, it also has branches in Europe, Latin America, and the United States.
We found the following statements about its AMOLED displays:
• “BOE’s AMOLED (Active Matrix/Organic Light Emitting Diode) displays currently cover mainstream sizes, and are featured by flexibility, high color gamut, high contrast, wide view angle, light and thin design, energy-conserving, fast response, etc.”
• “AMOLED technology features higher contrast, thinner design and lower power consumption.”
• “The product emits lights independently with the self-luminous organic material without backlight module, so it is slimmer. Moreover, it is flexible and bendable.”
Flexterra has offices in Chicago, Illinois, and Taipei, Taiwan. This company seems to focus on its Flexible TFT Technology, which combines flexible transistor as a backplane and flexible frontplane for its flexible displays.
The following statements are found on its website:
• “Borne out of over ten years of fundamental research in the chemistry and physics of flexible TFTs, Flexterra Flexible TFT™ technology is a revolutionary breakthrough at the intersection of science, engineering, and technology, all with one aim: to enable the production of flexible electronics products at scale.”
• “The process starts with our proprietary ActivInk materials, which we formulate and supply to partners. We then work closely with those partners to help them bring their flexible electronics products to market.”
• “Then, with the support of the SAES Group, Flexterra is able to provide its proprietary ActivInk materials at commercial scale, enabling the real potential of fully flexible electronics.”
E Ink is founded in 1997 as a spin-off from the MIT Media Lab. It claims to be the world’s leading innovator of digital signage and electronic paper display (EPD) technology.
One of its technology is flexible displays using plastic-based TFT backplanes, which allows for lighter and thinner end products than products made using glass-based TFT. We found the following statements on its website:
• “The weight savings with plastic TFTs can make a significant difference in the end products' specs: a 10.7" LCD-based display weighs an average of 1.44 pounds; an 11.4" E Ink display with a plastic TFT and similar internal components can weigh only 17 ounces.”
• “As product designers consider utilizing larger displays for eTextbooks and eNewspapers, this weight savings can allow for larger devices to be held easily in one hand and will make a big difference in the weight of a student's backpack.”
• “For applications such as cell phones or hand-held devices, the use of a plastic TFT can be augmented by a layer of unbreakable glass on the front of the display to give stiffness to a device which requires significant touch interaction, but still provides an increased ruggedness.”
Plastic Logic is a company based in Germany that offers the most flexible EPD on the market, according to its website. Its flexible display product, called Lectum Displays, has the following features:
• “Organic TFT active matrix, incorporating industry leading, bi-stable electrophoretic display technology.”
• “Ultra-low power — no continuous refresh cycles required.”
• “Glass-free and thin.”
• “Bendable, robust and lightweight.”
• “Ultra-wide viewing angle.”
Joled Inc. is founded in January 2015 and is based in Japan. Its technology includes printing OLED technology, oxide TFT technology, and flexible displays.
The following are statements related to Joled’s flexible displays found on its website:
• “We have developed an oxide TFT driven flexible AM-OLED display. The oxide TFT’s low-temperature manufacturing process under ~300ºC contributes to the application easiness of the plastic substrate, and superior device performances are maintained even on a flexible substrate.”
• “Joled develops new technologies for the AM-OLED display. Flexible display is one of the key technologies for AM-OLED display.”
• “Flexible display technology provides various added value to the AM-OLED display such as ultra-light, flexible, foldable, and rollable properties.”
SmartKem is a company based in the U.K. that focuses on its truFLEX organic semiconductors. It’s partnering with other global companies in a project called FlexTrans, which aims to drive the use of its technology to mass manufacture flexible displays.
The following are excerpts found on SmartKem’s website about truFLEX technology for flexible displays:
• “truFLEX offers the display and electronics industry a new thin film transistor platform with world-leading electrical performance and unbeatable form factor advantages.”
• “This new material system can be easily solution-coated onto low-cost plastic at room temperature with no need for a vacuum, using existing equipment. truFLEX® is changing the way the display and electronics industries are thinking — the world of displays and electronics is no longer heavy, flat or rigid but lightweight, thin, rollable and foldable.”
• “SmartKem is driving the development of a whole new range of differentiated CE applications in a global market; encompassing low power, lightweight, unbreakable displays on plastic that can flex, bend, fold and roll — all produced with simplified production methods and at reduced cost.”
The seven companies that produce flexible displays are based in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Thinness, lightweight, and flexibility seem to be the key features of their flexible display products. Reduction in manufacturing cost of such product seems to be a major factor mentioned in most of their websites.